Stocks Ended Higher on Upbeat Data

U.S. stocks ended higher on Thursday after another decline in jobless claims pointed to further improvement in the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average added 61.91 points, or 0.51 percent, to 12,169.65. The S&P 500 Index gained 10.28 points, or 0.83 percent, to 1,254.00. The Nasdaq Composite rose 21.48 points, or 0.83 percent, to 2,599.45.

The number of Americans filing initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits stands at the lowest level since April 2008, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. First-time filings for claims fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 364,000 in the week ended Dec. 17. The four-week average of initial claims — a smoother gauge than the weekly data — fell 8,000 to 380,250, the fewest since June 2008.

Crude futures rose for a fourth session to close above $99 a barrel Thursday, extending the prior session’s gains on a surprisingly deep inventory drop, and getting an additional boost from improving data on U.S. jobs and consumer sentiment. Oil for February delivery settled up 86 cents, or 0.9%, to $99.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. reported fiscal third-quarter sales that fell short of analyst expectations and forecast fourth quarter profit range that bracketed Wall Street’s prediction. Its profit and revenue rose in its September-November quarter. But its revenue of $2.34 billion was just shy of the $2.36 billion that analysts expected, according to a survey by FactSet. Its prediction for the current quarter, which ends in February, was for earnings of $1.28 to $1.33 per share. Analysts had been expecting $1.30 per share.

Women’s apparel retailer Chistopher & Banks Corp. reported late Thursday a fiscal third-quarter 2012 loss of $28.2 million, or 79 cents a share, widening its year-ago loss off $9.2 million, or 26 cents a share. Revenue for the three months ended Nov. 26 rose to $123.9 million from $120.9 million a year ago.

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